Susanne Szczesny-Oßin

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The first female president of the German Welding Society
President of the Koblenz Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of EWM AG

Ms Szczesny-Oßing, what led you to seek a career in such a male-dominated industry? After having studied business administration, how did you get into welding technology?

It has mainly to do with my family background. I got into welding technology sort of by osmosis through our family company EWM. So it made sense to make a career in this field. We have both engineers and managers in our family, a blend that makes us a great team capable of running EWM as a successful company. People basically do their job well because they like the work and really put themselves into it, so nobody in our family has ever pushed anyone into a direction they were not inclined toward. On the contrary, family members have been supported to pursue careers wherever their natural talents lie and employed in areas where they can contribute meaningfully to the firm.

As a young woman, I never thought about the industry being male-dominated, I was mainly interested in the family-run aspect to the company. And I was in a position to benefit from that in part, as there are few women in managerial positions in the welding technology industry in Germany.

Could you briefly talk about some of the biggest milestones and key experiences you have had in the field of welding technology?

 When I got started at EWM, we were still a classic component manufacturer. We gradually evolved into a machine manufacturer, and I look at that as a milestone of which I was part. Then EWM evolved further into what we are today – a full-service provider  – which represents another milestone, as we now cover the entire process chain. We offer welding consumables, intelligent welding arcs and even management consulting using the EWM maXsolution. EWM has developed significantly over the years, and I am grateful to have been a part of that with my family members and to continue being part of that development.

What welding technology processes have you become specialised in at EWM AG?

Arc welding processes are our core competency, an area in which we are Germany’s largest manufacturer. This technology is deployed across the board in MIG, MAG, TIG and microplasma welding. Now we are concentrating on other joining technologies as well, as indicated by our EWM Award, for example, which is presented entirely independently of any welding procedure. The Award is a way to bestow recognition on talented young individuals active in welding process research.

What would you say has been your ‘mega-project’ in the last several years?

 EWM has successfully grown from being a company known exclusively to a small number of component manufacturers into a mechanical engineering firm respected throughout the industry. It has been a privilege to be involved in managing business aspects of and communications for this crucial process of positioning EWM as a welding technology brand, though it has certainly had its challenges. The principal challenge in this, however, has been to develop a range of excellent welding machines using our components. The work of our Research and Development department has obviously played a key role.

What is your most important project ongoing right now?

The key objective for EWM as a welding technology leader is to further consolidate the company’s positioning amidst a field of strong competitors, who also cover wide swathes of the overall process chain, in fast-paced times as technologies are becoming ever-more sophisticated. Internal knowledge management is also an important project for us relevant to that objective. What structures are to be in place for us to pass on knowledge within the company to younger generations? In what ways will we leverage the possibilities unlocked by digitisation, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence?

What do you see as the most important characteristics of an arc welding machine in field usage?

Process-reliable welding characteristics, high tolerance limits, faster control technology and a long service life, to name a few. Our machines also meet high sustainability standards, are manufactured using resource-saving methods and are of superior quality. 100% made in Germany.

What about health and operational safety issues relevant in welding?

These are high-priority issues at EWM. With our machines, users can enjoy lower emissions as they work. Example: The EWM forceArc puls® welding process reduces welding smoke emissions by up to 75 percent versus conventional processes for welders working with high-alloy metals, such as CrNi steels.

Health issues are also taken seriously within our organisation, which is why we have a health management programme in place. As part of this, gym membership discounts, wellness offerings and courses on cooperation with various health insurers are available.

What challenges is the welding technology industry currently facing?

 On the one hand, there are constantly new materials, like high-tensile steels, coming on the market, and, on the other hand, welding is being done at ever-higher elevations across a spectrum of areas, like crane manufacturing. Metals that were hard to weld some years ago now fall within the range of our specialised expertise. Our work has also changed in that for a long time now it has no longer been about selling a machine or a process, but rather getting involved with our customers, even down to the design level. This means that we advise our customers by looking at what specifically is to be welded and which of our machines and processes are most suitable for the purpose.

Sometimes consulting with our customers in this fashion leads to a complete redesign of the original component to afford more economical operation.

What big plans for the future do you have at EWM AG?

We are a proud family company, and nothing should change about that. We aim to continue being a major player in the industry despite the rapid pace of market change and high-tech advancement. The keys are to focus on communicating the advantages of using our products, which are becoming more apparent with the rise of digitisation, in international markets and to keep growing as a company.

You work in a male-dominated industry. Have you ever experienced gender discrimination, and do you think that this is commonplace in the industry?

 I am well aware, of course, that it does also occur in our industry. The environment I grew up in, however – no doubt due to being in a family company – was one in which I was able to earn respect through my work and my authenticity. Nonetheless, I have experienced gender discrimination. I try to address such situations with composure.

Is there anything you would like to tell our readers, particularly women, as a parting shot?

 I have always found authenticity to be beneficial, and I would recommend both women and men to strive for that. It also helps that I have a quick wit, am thick-skinned and won’t easily let others put me off track. And I’m able to get things done, even without the approval of all parties concerned, in some cases.

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